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Let Us Break Bread Together (Part I)


Published 1954


How a New York City school district promoted racial integration and intergroup tolerance.


Run time 12:59
Producer Film Production Unit, Bureau of AV Instruction
Sponsor City of New York, Board of Education
Audio/Visual Sd, C

Shotlist

A pictorial documentation which shows how integration and brotherhood are being promoted in a school district in New York City.
Ken Smith sez: An important film. Documents (sort of) the "intervisitation program" designed to mix black and white kids in NYC schools. Great prep school-accent narrator.

INTEGRATION RACIAL TOLERANCE UNDERSTANDING ETHNICITY ETHNIC GROUPS BLACK CHILDREN AF RICAN AMERICANS NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS EDUCATION
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Reviews

Reviewer: ERD - - May 31, 2007
Subject: THE BREAD WAS SCATTERED
In 1954, The New York City Board of Education
probably had one of the best systems in this country.
Dr. William Jansen, the superintendant, was highly respected. As a 6th grade student in this public system, I remember how our class wrote a song with our teacher, "People are People all over the world." This film shows the goal of that time. Unfortunately, New York City was going through a change. Many middle class and affluent people moved away, and those who remained felt conditions disintegrating.
When I became a teacher in the 1960's, the civil
riots in city neighborhoods created a lot of turmoil in the schools. The city's economic decline further weakened the system. This 1954 film is highly idealistic and done in controlled
circumstances. The production-when compared to the present- is stilted, and the narrator would have failed the speech portion
of the teachers' test given by the N.Y.C.Board of
Examiners of that time. Still, it is an honest attempt to show what was being attempted at that particular time, and one can't put that down.
Reviewer: Brenda Thomas - - January 12, 2006
Subject: Let Us Break Bread Together
I am new to this site. I came to it as a result of a conversation with two Jewish New Yorkers who went to public school and one of whom was part of this project. I am a Black American of the same age as this group and grew up in northern New Jersey. We discussed our experiences as seeming outsiders and at a time of social turmoil in this country.

The community where I live has a similar program for high school age children who come together from the three schools--one private, one public, one magnet school--to find commonality despite differences in race, culture and economic standing.

I find this a valuable film. The criticisms that I read online here do not take into consideration the time and the styles of the time. This is similar to the recapitulation shows--police investigations, paranormal events, etc. Certainly styles have changed in producing documentaries. What remains is the documentation of a social/educational experiment that reflects creative social progressive spirit and concern. It is also a great repository of styles of the time. I enjoyed noting the furnishings, clothing, social forms. You have to credit the filmmakers with giving a solid retelling of an innovative project.
Reviewer: Christine Hennig - - January 18, 2004
Subject: Racial Harmony for the Living Dead
This 50s film documents an ambitious (for its time) project the public school system in New York City instituted to break down racism by pairing schools in racially homogenous neighborhoods with other such schools whose racial composition was different and having the students visit each othersÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ schools and work on group projects together. ItÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs an admirable idea, and it looks like the project itself was fairly successful, but the film is bizarrely directed and incredibly tedious. It starts with an interracial choir singing the African-American spiritual ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂLet Us Break Bread TogetherÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ verrrrrrry sloooowwwllly, and that sets you up for whatÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs to come. All speech in the film, including the narration and comments from participants in the program, is done in a very slow, measured cadence, with pauses after every two or three words. Instead of filming spontaneous responses to interview questions from the participants, all comments from the participants (this includes comments from children, parents, and teachers) were heavily scripted and recited by the participants in the same slow, measured cadence. The actual content of both the narration and the participantsÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ comments sounds like it was written with the assumption that all audience members for the film would be slightly mentally retarded, so everything would need to be explained very slowly and carefully, with lots of repetition. When speaking, the participants look like they were given large doses of Thorazine and were directed to read off of cue cards that had only two or three words written on each one. One woman keeps glancing in different directions, as if every cue card was shown to her from a different vantage point. The film ends with two of the children reciting in unison a poem that was written by one of the other participants in the program. They do this staring straight ahead at the camera and speaking very slowly and without a trace of emotion. After awhile, you begin to wonder if this project took place in the School System of the Living Dead, or perhaps aliens had stolen their souls. The narrator, for some reason, has a weird, pseudo-British accent, which just adds to the weirdness of the proceedings. ItÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs too bad, really, that the film was so poorly directed, because the project itself was very interesting and ambitious, and could have sparked a really fascinating film. As it is, despite its weirdness, it puts you to sleep.
Ratings: Camp/Humor Value: ***. Weirdness: *****. Historical Interest: ****. Overall Rating: ***.
Reviewer: Spuzz - - September 19, 2003
Subject: Let ussss breaaaaak breaaaad together...
Stunningly well done documentary about how parents and officials felt it was important to integrate students of colors, creeds and classes into the NY school system. Remember, this is 1954! Seemingly non-concerned parents speak well of this idea, and the kids get along fine. Some rather strange points though (these just add to the enjoyability of this)
1) The very strange narration which pauses on every 3rd word and has an accent that I can't figure out.
2) The puerto rican kid who, I swear, has a hairdo salute to Esquivel.
3) The woman who looks to be wearing a pot on her head.
These and other not-intentionally-funny moments make this wonderful film a MUST SEE on this site!
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